NFL Wire News

Hawk brings experience to Bengals’ linebacker corps


The Sports Xchange

CINCINNATI — As the Cincinnati Bengals opened OTAs on Tuesday, it became clear the return of weak-side linebacker Vontaze Burfict from January microfracture surgery on his knee is unknown.

Head coach Marvin Lewis conceded that Burfict’s rehab will last through the summer, although the question is how long into the summer. Training camp opens July 31, and the team will be sure Burfict is ready before he returns to the practice field. On Tuesday, he was in attendance and did some running the rehab field.

It was no surprise then that the Bengals signed linebacker A.J. Hawk after he was released by the Green Bay Packers and then selected Paul Dawson in the third round of the draft. Hawk not only lined up on the weak side but flipped to the strong side during the workouts. Although his experience in Green Bay was in a 3-4 defense, he has no issues with playing the Bengals’ 4-3.

Hawk told the team website, “We had some games at Green Bay we were never in the 3-4. You’re in nickel packages, which is like a 4-3, a 4-2 or whatever. Football is football, I think, when it comes down to it. Something that is different is if you’re an outside backer in a 3-4, you’re a D-end basically that has to drop. So the guy who is transitioning from a 4-3 D-end to a 3-4 outside backer, yeah that’s a tough transition. But the inside spots, they’re not exactly the same, but it’s still football. It’s not hand down, hand up and that whole thing.”

Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga was also on the rehab field, although he is expected to be able to practice Wednesday. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is making sure numerous players get reps after the experience of 2014 when he was forced to play backups because of several injuries.

“One thing I learned last year is you have to make sure the backup guys are ready to go, so there’s going to be some guys working in with the first group, second group,” Guenther said. “We really don’t have groups right now. We have 11 guys out there.”

Taking Maualuga’s spot Tuesday was Vincent Rey, who was impressed with Hawk’s rapid adjustment.

Rey said, “It was good to be out there with him, just from communication. He was talking all the time pre-snap. It was good because I felt comfortable. I’m saying, ‘This guy knows what the heck is going on.’ It was cool to hear. Little stuff like, ‘Vinny, watch for this.’ It’s good because you’re more relaxed in your stance. Tez, Rey, they’re such good communicators. That’s what makes them good. He’s just like them.”

Of Hawk, Guenther said, “He’s real smart. Veteran guy, played in a lot of different defenses. So he’s picked up our defense really good. He’s playing all the spots. For a guy like that with his experience, it’s good to have a guy who’s been through it a lot to be through those things.

“Right now, we have him in one spot, but all our guys got to know because whoever is going next into the game, it’s always the next best guy. He’s done a great job of picking up everything. It’s natural to him. He’s played in the 4-3 before, so it’s not like it’s alien.”

A lot has been made of Hawk being from Ohio, growing up a Bengals fan, going to Ohio State and now returning as he enters the 10th season of his career.

“It’s something my wife jokes about. I’m from Ohio so I have a connection here with the people in Ohio,” Hawk said. “I like how people go about their way, how they work here. I think everyone is always looking for some kind of motivation. I’ve always been a guy who has motivated myself.

“I love the game. I love playing football, but there’s a big difference. Everything is different. Not just the scheme but the schedule, how we run things, how practice is structured. It’s fun to see there are multiple different ways to run a team and do things. I love the guys at Green Bay. They do things first class and I’ve seen nothing but the same here.”

–Also on the rehab field Tuesday was wide receiver Marvin Jones, who didn’t play at all last season because of two foot issues. However, Jones said he had a minor hamstring problem and expected to work Wednesday.

Tight end Tyler Eifert, who suffered a dislocated elbow and separated shoulder in the season opener last year and missed the remainder of the season, worked in seven-on-seven drills Tuesday but not in 11-on-11.

Right tackle Andre Smith is still rehabbing a torn triceps injury that cost him seven games in 2014. Eric Winston worked in his spot Tuesday.

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